Karl-Anthony Towns posted up, grabbed rebounds, hit 3-pointers and set plenty of bone-rattling screens.
The 22-year-old All-Star center led the Minnesota Timberwolves with a season-high 37 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday in handing the Washington Wizards their second straight defeat, 116-111, at Capital One Arena in D.C.
“He’s strong to play against and quick enough to drive,” Wizards power forward Markieff Morris said of Towns. “He had a really good game tonight. We couldn’t control him.”
The Wizards have now lost five of their past seven games, including the 129-102 drubbing on the road Saturday against the Miami Heat.
For the past week, Washington (38-30) has given up at least 60 points in the paint to all their opponents. On Tuesday, Minnesota scored 64.
That didn’t please the usually mild-mannered Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, who vented afterward about his team’s defensive effort.
“We’re getting beat on backdoors, we’re getting beat off the dribble,” he said. “It’s been four games now and we’ve given up over 60 points in the paint. It’s personal pride. I’ve got to find guys that are going to [play stronger defense].”
The Wizards led 95-85 early in the fourth, but Minnesota (40-29) went on a 20-3 run with a variety of players scoring.
Timberwolves shooting guard Andrew Wiggins scored six points during that stretch to finish with 16.
Jamal Crawford, who turns 38 on March 20, scored 11 points, including a finger roll layup past Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. to give Timberwolves a 111-106 lead with less than two minutes.
“We played desperate and we showed a lot of resolve in that game,” Crawford said. “I have seen us in some points this season down that much in the fourth quarter and we kind of let go … but tonight we … took the bull by the horns.”
The Wizards play a back-to-back against the injury-plagued Boston Celtics, which will likely be without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart.
In terms of postseason positioning, the Celtics (46-21) are second in the Eastern Conference, four games behind the Toronto Raptors (50-17).
Washington sits one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-28) for the fourth seed, but just two games behind the third-seeded Indiana Pacers (40-28), which visits Washington on Saturday.
The top four seeds begin the first round of the playoffs at home.
“The East race is really close,” Morris said. “We have to make sure we stay above water and just get prepared.”